Bette Midler: Still sassy at 67
ByÂ Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LOS ANGELESâ€”In our latest encounter with the Divine Miss M in Manhattan, we told her that we knew a Filipino talent (Behn Cervantes) who performed with her in stage productions at theUniversity of Hawaii, back when she was a girl raring to spread her wings. That inspired Bette Midler to muse about those early days in her native Hawaii, before she moved to New York and eventually went on to become an award-winning singer and actress.
Bette stars with Billy Crystal in â€œParental Guidance,â€ a comedy where the two beloved performers portray grandparents. The filmâ€™s themes of parenting and tough love steered our interview toward talk about her mommy skills, daughter Sophie (who is now 26), and husband, actor Martin von Haselberg.
What were you like when you were performing in productions at the University of Hawaii?
I was pretty much the same. I was lively, and I had a lot of energy. I was very curious, ambitious and anxious to get away and start my life. Iâ€™d have to say that was the main thrust of my existence at the time.
What would you be like as a grandparent?
Iâ€™m too young to be a grandparent. Iâ€™ve forbidden my daughter to become pregnant, just until Iâ€™m ready. That would be in a hundred years!
What were some things that you wish you had done differently as a parent?
I think my daughter is pretty much perfect, so I donâ€™t really feel that Iâ€™ve made any real mistakes. The biggest thing that I did right was I married my husband, whoâ€™s a great father. Heâ€™s one of the greatestâ€”he was chosen for that job! He picked up all the slack when I was out of town doing movies. He raised a great child. I had a hand in it, too, but he really was my rock!
I was there a lot, but I wasnâ€™t there as much as I wish I had been. It was a wonderful time in my lifeâ€”and in my daughterâ€™s life. Even though youâ€™ve been told your whole life how fast it goes, you donâ€™t really know until youâ€™ve experienced it! I never missed a birthday. We traveled a lot together.
My daughter is the first person to say that sheâ€™s the only one in her crowd who loves to spend time with her parents. Every year, we have at least three (major) things that we do togetherâ€”we cook, eat, and travel to Flushing (New York) to eat Chinese food. Weâ€™re a family, and we love each otherâ€™s company so much. Itâ€™s our chance to grill her and know whatâ€™s going on. A lot of parents donâ€™t have that luxury, so Iâ€™m grateful.
Will you do another show like â€œThe Showgirl Must Go Onâ€?
I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll be doing that kind of show again. It was the biggest show I ever did. There were a lot of people involved, and that stage was vast! It was just too big for meâ€”I was carrying the whole thing on my shoulders!
I also donâ€™t like the pollution that those gigantic shows engender. I still love to sing and entertain. But, I want to find another way to do it that has a lot of charm and impact, but not as stressful on the planet.
How did being in that show in Las Vegas change your life?
It was 20 weeks a year, for two yearsâ€”and it was tough! The first year was good. The second year was tougher, because the (economic) crash happened. The city itself went through major changes. I was there as a performer, so I saw those changes in Las Vegas. It was very disturbing.
One of the things I learned early on about the show and the venue was that if a performer didnâ€™t work, the ushers and the box-office people didnâ€™t get paid. So, I felt obliged to show up. I never missed a show. It was hard because, in order to keep yourself vital and healthy enough to do those shows, you had to follow a strict regimen. No this, no that, no carousing, no carrying on. Only two drinks.
You had to do Pilates, the treadmill, and all that. It was two years of Groundhog Day! In the end, I was very tired of everything.
When are you most comfortable?
In myÂ pajamasÂ and socks, with my blanket on. I am most comfortable puttering around the house in my rags.
And, where do you like to escape?
Funnily enough, it isnâ€™t getting on a plane and going somewhere. Itâ€™s getting in theÂ car, going down to the flower market in Manhattan, to the place where they have ribbons and bows. Oh, my God, itâ€™s just heavenâ€”thoseÂ beautifulÂ things!